Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 8 November 2022:
1 Kings 19:1-4 – Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
After Elijah had been used as an instrument to display God’s mighty power, and after he had killed all the prophets, then he was afraid of Jezebel’s threats. She must have been incredibly powerful and ruthless. What does it take for you to lose heart?
In a time of total distress, Elijah ran to the Lord and was strengthened by God. Where do you turn during times like this?
1 Kings 19:4-8 – But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
God calls us to perform missions that are impossible for us under our own strength. He then provides what we cannot provide for ourselves. He does this to reveal Himself.
1 Kings 19:10 – … I only, am left….
When you remain faithful to God while the world rejects God, you will feel alone, but you are not alone. Allow God to unite you with the body of believers.
1 Kings 19:12 — And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
You must be ready to hear the whisper of God in the midst of the world’s turmoil. You cannot hear the whisper of God unless you are really listening, unless you are willing to go to places of silence for that very purpose. If you are caught up in the noise of the world and expecting God to shout over it to provide you His word for you, you should learn from Elijah. We tend to look for God through great miraculous acts but often miss that He speaks to us through His word in a low whisper. It seems that we are so wrapped up in the daily hustle and bustle of the world, so distracted, and so worried that we are never quiet and still enough to just listen.
1 Kings 19:14 – …and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.
In his service to the Lord, Elijah had experienced incredible highs and lows, and now he is experiencing intense discouragement. Elijah had just called down fire from heaven, and now he is in fear for his life, feeling isolated and alone. Elijah’s focus had shifted from God to God’s enemies. Only God could comfort Elijah, and God did. When discouraged, get alone with God.
1 Kings 19:15 — You shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.
God places all kings in power for His purposes. If you want a different leader, go to God, but you may want to ask why God gave you the leader you have in the first place.
1 Kings 19:17 – And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death.
God’s prophets wielded the sword upon God’s command.
1 Kings 19:18 — Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.
Though you may think no one remains totally committed to obedience to God anymore, you are wrong. God accounts for all His faithful and will take care of them. If you don’t see faithful people around you, you might be in the wrong place with the wrong people; you may be operating deep within enemy lines on a special mission from God, or you might not be paying close enough attention.
1 Kings 19:19, 20 – So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”
Elisha was called by God to change his entire life for God, to give up a profitable business to serve God.
1 Kings 19:13, 19-21 — Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him….. So Elisha… took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.
Without notice, Elijah called Elisha to a new life as a Prophet of God. This was an unexpected, life changing moment. Elisha could not continue to live the life he had been living and follow God’s direction too. God’s plan for Elisha was far greater than Elisha’s plan for Elisha. Elisha was at the moment of decision: do I stay who I am (a decent, hardworking, respected, God fearing man) and build a good life for myself, or do I deny self and follow God wholeheartedly? Do I ask God to bless my life and what I am doing, or do I seek to know God’s plan and become a part of what He is already doing for His own glory? Elisha cut all ties with his former life and left himself no “Plan B” or “out option.” He was all in. Elisha made his choice — no turning back. His old life was over; he was all in for the Lord. Gal 3:26-27 says: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” God threw the cloak of Christ on you – now, what will you do?
1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Today, John adds that if you love God, you will keep His commandments, and it won’t be burdensome to do so. Why? Because it isn’t burdensome to do what you truly desire in your heart to do. Love is the ultimate motivator. Are you truly passionate and joyful about obeying all Jesus commanded, such as loving your enemies, giving abundantly, forgiving, proclaiming the Gospel, etc? Or do you find it burdensome? What motivates you to obey God when you do, and how does it feel?
A heartless captor and executioner or a loving father? Some are motivated to obey God out of fear, but fear is a tremendous burden which robs a person of their joy, stifles the person’s growth, and robs that person of a healthy relationship with God – healthy relationships are built on trust, not fear. But the Bible is full of many verses which speak to the importance of “fearing” the Lord – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10) However, yesterday we read in 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” So, apparently, we are to fear and not fear – how do we resolve this apparent contradiction?
Luther described too different types of fear, one bad and one good: A bad fear is when God is viewed as an unloving, malicious, malevolent actor who merely seeks to torment and punish his captives or slaves. In contrast, Luther described a healthy fear, a tremendous respect and love, that a child has for a loving father, a love which ‘fears’ offending the father who is so deeply respected and appreciated, but a love which never fears that the father’s love is in jeopardy or dependent upon the son’s perfect behavior. Reflecting back on 1 John 4, our fear of the Lord is awe and amazement of His grace which inspires us to obey Him out of love, not fear of punishment. It is the love of the Father which enables us to love and motivates us to love as He loves – as beloved, loving children, we want to grow up to be just like Daddy. In God’s love, obeying isn’t burdensome.
- 1 John 4:7-21 — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Some are motivated to obey God in hopes of gaining approval or blessings. This too is arduous toil which inevitably wanes as it fails to achieve the intended results. And reward-based obedience is self-centered, superficial and artificial, not the foundation a close relationship. Still others will be motivated to obey God from a sense of duty. Once again, duty is a burden, a response to what is required rather than desired, performance more than passion. Duty is powerful and often honorable but still falls short of love – Would you be more excited about someone giving you a gift because she knew she should or because she genuinely wanted to give it to you? Would you be able to tell the difference between an act of duty and an act of desire?
“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 John 5) “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) All of us recognize our obedience often remains burdensome, a struggle. We have mixed, imperfect motives because we are still growing in our love as we grow in our faith. How do we grow in love? We abide in God’s love — “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19) Obey God and pray that He will increasingly strengthen your desire to obey and your joy in obedience, and joy in the abiding.
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 — For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
John 5:5, 6 – One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
Jesus noticed and supported the people everyone else had long forgotten. How about you?
John 5:7, 8 – The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
For a long time, a man diligently looked to tradition, human wisdom, and superstition for healing when all he needed to do was trust and obey Jesus.
John 5:10 — So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.”
People get angry when Jesus confounds their understanding and operates outside of their rules, beliefs, and values.
John 5:14 — See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.
Jesus didn’t just address physical needs, but more importantly, spiritual needs. Jesus healed but also warned against sin. Unity with God through obedience inspired by genuine love is the goal, not a more comfortable life apart from God.
John 5:17 — But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
Jesus did what the Father was doing; He wasn’t on His own program but rather was following the Father’s lead. Jesus’ agenda was The Father’s agenda. He only did what The Father told Him to do, regardless of what others thought He should do. Jesus didn’t act on His own initiative. He joined The Father in the work that the Father was already doing. Had Jesus done ministry like everyone else, the invalid would not have been healed but only ignored. How do you decide where to minister?
John 5:17, 19, 20 — But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working…. Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing…. I can do nothing on my own.”
Abiding in the Father, Jesus could see what the Father was doing when others could not. Jesus had spiritual vision and was led by the Spirit, not by the flesh or emotion. Christians often get this backwards; we come up with a plan to serve God based upon our human perceptions and then we get very busy with self-generated religious activity and ask God to bless it. Then, we measure success of that activity based upon outward appearances and our mortal standards. If the activity meets our standard of success, we tell ourselves God is with us, and if it doesn’t measure up to our standards, we tell ourselves that it wasn’t God’s will after all. Of course, God doesn’t follow our lead, nor does He measure success or failure on our terms. God’s thoughts are as far removed from our thoughts as the Heavens are from the Earth. But we get so caught up in our own activities that we miss, right in front of us, what God is actually doing. Today, don’t just get wrapped up in your own activities and initiatives; wait on God’s lead. Walk with eyes wide open today to see what God is doing. Pay attention to the circumstances God intentionally orchestrates before you today and seek to be wholly obedient to His word in your response. Look to minister to the needs of those around you today as you feel convicted. Look for where the Holy Spirit is convicting hearts around you and follow God’s lead as you serve as Christ’s Ambassador in the lives of others on whom He is working. How different will your day be if you only do what God is already doing?
People are busier today than ever before, but how much of that effort is doing things God never asked them to do or wanted them to do. Even in religious activities, we can find ourselves doing what God had never asked. What will drive your day? Will you be about your business, someone else’s business or God’s business. Find out what God is already doing around you and join Him in that.
John 5:23, 24 — Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
You cannot love God and not Jesus. You cannot come to The Father apart from Jesus, His Beloved, one and only, Son. This reality doesn’t make sense and is downright offensive to those who want to approach God on their own terms. God is God. Jesus is Lord and Savior.
John 5:30 — I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
Again, Jesus was informed solely by the word of God and walked in the word. Jesus is the embodiment of the word; He is The Word. When you walk in the word, you are walking with The Word.
John 5:39-42 — You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.
The world does not need Biblical principles, ethics, morals, and values; the world needs Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, the only Name by which people can be saved. Today, Christians are preaching “goodness” rather than Jesus, convincing themselves that they are evangelizing. If your message or “advice” doesn’t focus on the Person of Jesus, you are preaching another gospel which is not gospel at all but rather anti-Christ. Yes, Bible principles “work” in a practical sense, even for the unbeliever, but they don’t “save.” We are called to be Ambassadors for Jesus Christ, not Ambassadors for the law, or for morality.
People approach the Bible in many different ways but mostly in a self-centered fashion, hoping to gain a better life on this earth. To many, the Bible is an encyclopedia of do’s and don’ts, a self-help book, or a history of lessons-learned. However, the intent of the Bible is to lead you to Jesus — the whole Bible is a testimony about Jesus, provided so you would go to Him in real, personal, and obedient relationship. Don’t just read the Bible for how to live your life. Read the Bible to unite with Jesus.
“I do not receive glory from people.” God doesn’t need us to defend Him. Just share the truth with others, regardless of whether or not they want to hear it, and let God take care of the rest. You are just a messenger – be faithful to that.
John 5:43, 44 – I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
Christians often say that they don’t want to “beat people over the head with the name ‘Jesus’ and close the door to future influence; better to be tactful.” So, they try to communicate biblical ideas in some vague way, as if that would inspire the unbeliever to pursue Jesus. And then there are others who tell themselves that they don’t have to say anything but just “act like Jesus,” again somehow inspiring the unbeliever to seek Jesus. Today, we have Christians who actually boast that they don’t say the Name “Jesus” because they don’t want to “lose their witness.” What? Christians avoid their ambassadorship to save their jobs and social positions, and they tell themselves that they are “salt and light” in their positions because they hint at faith and because they are good people. Often, they are seeking to draw attention to their own “righteousness” rather than to the person of Jesus Christ. What would Jesus do (WWJD)? He would not hesitate to proclaim the truth and be rejected. No one comes to the Son but the Father draws him. It is a copout to suggest that too bold a stand for Jesus is unproductive. It is God who produces, not us. The mealy-mouthed Christian is just a coward, usually with a great excuse. If more Christians boldly proclaimed Christ, we might have more unemployed Christians but also perhaps another Great Revival in America.
What motivates you to do what you do? What or who has the biggest influence on your life? Whose approval do you seek most? To whom do you go to seek comfort? Who do you fear most, God or other people? Jesus said that the mark of a true believe is that they seek the will, praise, and glory of God above all else, and that their actions are determined by God’s word. Jesus was criticized by the religious leaders of His day for doing God’s will in the face of what men demanded of him. These religious leaders where the same type that Jesus called hypocrites (Greek word for stage actor) because that acted holy to gain the praise of men. Their good deeds were the product of pride rather than the product of genuine love for God. One scholar comments on these leaders — “they never were afraid of the judgment of God but only the judgment of people.” We can be led into sin and deceit when we honor and fear men more than we honor and fear God. Ask yourself today whose approval you are seeking. Endeavor to care not primarily what men think but to be first and foremost concerned with God’s perspective.
- Matthew 6:24 — No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 November 2022: Today, consider the motives behind your obedience, and pray that God will help you obey in love. Don’t just get busy doing stuff today, getting wrapped up in the worries of the world. Only do what the Holy Spirit leads you to do; do it immediately and exactly how the Holy Spirit leads. Remember that God’s thoughts are not your thoughts. The Holy Spirit will always lead you off of your intended path to do what He wants you to do rather than what your simple minds thinks best in any particular situation. Where you are uncertain as to what to do, remain within the direction of God’s written word. (John 5)